21…Can You Believe It?!

Yes, Victoria turned 21 on the 29th. Can you believe it?!!! It doesn’t seem possible that 21 years ago God presented us with a baby girl who miraculously survived having the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck twice. Had she not come a week early I fear she might not be here today. While we had already picked out the name Victoria, the circumstances surrounding her birth made that name, which can mean victory, victorious, or conqueror, all the more fitting.

So what’s has she been up to since her last birthday? Well, the big news is VA-Graduationthat she graduated from UAH on May 3. Yes, she finally graduated and has put college behind her. Needless to say she’s ecstatic to be out of school. But, for all her grumping and gripping about having to go to college and take a bunch of “stupid” classes she did very well, especially if you recall that she went in at the age of 16. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in music performance and had the third highest GPA in the College of Liberal Arts. She was also one of the first to graduate from the newly accredited Honors College and the first harp student to graduate from the music program. To put these accomplishments into perspective, while in school she coached gymnastics, taught ballroom dance classes and private lessons, and taught harp lessons. Now you can better see why she was gone more than at home during the school year.

Another biggie for her was buying a new-to-her concert grand harp this past March. Seems she’d outgrown the semi-grand we’d bought her and needed the VA-HSV Harpslarger harp to play some of the selections for her senior recital this past April. It was a great recital, and in addition to playing several solo pieces she was joined by The Harps of Huntsville for one number, a violinist for another number, and a VA-Sr Recital 2015pianist and her harp teacher for the last number. It was one of those times when you wished the music could go on forever, but in reality, you know that a harpist’s fingers can only last for so long.

Her new harp was also a plus when she was asked by the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra (HSO) to play in their England: A Sea Symphony as second harpist along with her harp teacher, Katherine Newman. The concert was on September 18. She and Mrs. Newman added so much glitz to the setting with their matching gold harps. It was thrilling to see her sitting on that stage with a full professional orchestra. This is what all her years of hard work have been for.

Pic-VA-HarleyAnother big purchase for Victoria since her last birthday was of a 1970 Harley Davidson Electra Glide. Yes, she is the owner of a very large and powerful motorcycle. It had belonged to Rick’s late cousin who took excellent care of his bikes. At present it needs a bit of work so it’s not on the road. A month or so back Victoria witnessed an accident between a truck and a motorcycle. She’s having second thoughts now about actually riding her “new” bike. What she figured out after seeing the wreck was that she had an 80% chance of losing a finger she needed for playing the harp and only a 20% chance of losing one that didn’t matter, i.e. her pinkies. She’d also be in a world of hurt (no pun intended) were she to lose the use of her legs or feet. It’s pretty tricky dancing or changing the pedals on her harp without them. If her face were messed up in a wreck she couldn’t compete as a ballroom dancer because looks are part of the equation in addition to dancing ability. So, she might just decide to sell the bike to her dad and be his scooter trash (that’s the person who rides behind) on occasion.

Pic-DecWhile Miss Martha was away last year, Victoria took over making the samples for the Li’l Woolies projects and packing the kits. Miss Martha returned to work back in February and inspected Victoria’s work. I overheard her tell a visitor that Victoria had done a better job than she could have done on the Li’l Woolies samples. That’s high praise indeed coming from one so skilled as Miss Martha. Together, they have been working on our monthly handwork offering, With Thy Needle, and it’s good to see them working as a team again.

October 29 is the perfect day for Victoria to turn 21 because it’s also National Cat Day. If you’ve followed us the past 11 years you know that Victoria is a cat person. When she was four or five she prayed every night for kittens. Her prayers were answered when Rick found several newborn kittens just off the front porch one day while he was mowing. We’ve had cats, in varying numbers and colors, ever since. Currently, we only have two left outside, Nike and Sylvester. They were Belle’s children from a few years back. Sadly, Belle is no longer with us. Victoria was given a little butterscotch colored kitten and when Belle found him in her room she was not at all happy. Victoria was afraid Belle would hurt the kitten, so she put her outside. We’ve not seen her since. Yes, we think Belle got mad at Victoria and ran away from home. We’ve greatly missed her.

Big RedJust before Labor Day, Victoria was given a fluffy, adult male cat. It took about two weeks before he’d even come out from under the couch in her room. He’s been a very quiet, very shy cat. She’s been waiting until her birthday to give her dad the good news about her “early birthday present” and that she once again has a cat in her room. This cat with no name is getting more curious though, and I’ve heard him meow a couple of times when she wasn’t at home. It’s about the only time I’ve been thankful that Rick’s hearing isn’t what it used to be. I don’t think he’s going to be overly thrilled that we have an indoor cat again, but maybe he’ll get over it when he realizes how happy it makes Victoria to once again have a cat to keep her company when she’s at home.

Another couple of milestones this past year included a second trip to New York City over spring break with the Huntsville Youth Orchestra. That was a surprise because after the first trip she said she wouldn’t go back. This time, however, they dangled going to see The Phantom of the Opera under her nose and she couldn’t resist. That plus Mrs. Newman and one of the other harpists went so she knew she’d have a good time even if she were in NYC. She also managed to fit in two trips to the beach this summer as well. One was a graduation gift from us and the other was with some of her friends from the dance studio. She comes by her love of the beach honestly because if I had my choice of places to live it would be at the beach.

As you might guess we are indeed proud of our youngest daughter. Her stubborn determination got her through the past four years of college with flying colors. She’s enjoyed teaching all her students be they dancers, gymnasts, or harpists. We’re hoping that she’ll continue to enjoy her youth unencumbered until the right young man comes along. That will be our prayer focus for the future. It would be such a shame for her to settle for anyone less than the man God has in mind for her. Please join us not only in wishing Victoria a very happy 21st birthday, but in prayer that she will wait upon the Lord to guide her as she walks into the adult world which all too often is like walking through a field full of land mines. One false step could be the end of a very bright and promising future for this talented young lady.

Love ya darlin’!

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Another Cute Spider!

Oct Spider
We’ve never celebrated Halloween as a family. No, our poor, poor deprived children never went trick-or-treating, but they also never lacked for candy because I would go the day after and buy candy I knew they actually liked for half price. They had a lot more candy and it was all eaten as opposed to being thrown away. Of course, since we homeschooled, our children could dress up any day of the year that they liked. They didn’t need a special holiday for that either. Personally, I think they came out much better than their peers in the long run.

When you own a quilt shop you don’t always have the luxury of skipping some holidays. That’s because we sometimes pick a set of patterns by a designer who likes holidays that we the owners might not put too much emphasis on, if any. Because of that, you invariably end up with a project that has icons of a holiday that you’re not keen on. Such is usually the case with Halloween and Christmas especially.

This year we did Buttermilk Basin’s With Thy Needle series when Miss Martha came back to work in February. While the designer used wool for these 8” square projects, we used the much less costly wool felt. After all, we have 50 colors from which to choose. Anyhow, Miss Martha took off like a shot with these little projects and we found it difficult to keep up with her. You’d think she missed stitching while she was retired for one year. She should be finishing up the projects for the last two months here before long. In truth, it’s been a joint effort between her and Victoria, with Victoria packing the kits and doing some of the embroidery work while Miss Martha stitched down all the big pieces.
With Thy Needle Base
The base pattern for this group gives you three alternatives for displaying your handwork. You can frame it in a wooden frame, stitch it into the center of a wall hanging, or make a hanging that allows you to change out the project each month while also keeping track of your needles, pins, and scissors. My plans were to do the latter because I liked the idea of hang the larger piece from a yardstick. Notice that I said “plans”. I’m sure you’re not surprised when I tell you that I’ve not made the background that these projects are supposed to hang on yet. No, I knew you wouldn’t be.
With Thy Needle-Oct
The project for October has a jack-o-lantern wearing a witch’s hat. While we don’t push either of these symbols we can’t dictate what others choose to do. After some debating, we went ahead and made the project as it was designed. Well, we sort of made the project as it was designed. I thought that there should be more light shinning through, so our pumpkin’s eyes and mouth are reversed and have more yellow than black. The kits are packed so that you could do whichever way you prefer. After all, flexibility is a good thing when it comes to stitching. I do have to admit to liking the little spider hanging from the hat though, along with his web in the corner. Being a crazy quilt fanatic I relate those two things with good luck, which I need heaps of these days. It appears our spider has lost a couple of his legs though, so some of his luck may have run out. I sense a fix in the near future.
With Thy Needle-Oct
This is how our version turned out. Didn’t they do a great job!

Even though this series is quickly coming to an end, we do have some kits left if you’d like to claim a set for yourself and get started. Miss Martha is especially pleased with the colors of the one for November and should be bringing the one for December in soon. I’ll try to remember to post those as well, but in the event that I forget, or find something else to post, you’ll just have to come in and see them in person. Trust me, they’re much better in person than they are in a photo.

Spindly Spider Pincushion

SNT-2015 Spider w Bent LegsNow that our fall Stitchin’ Camp has come and gone, I can share with you what we made for our campers. Is this not the cutest thang!!! The number for their door prize was pinned to a spider like this one. After their name was called they picked a spider out of a large box with a sea of spiders in it. Based on the number pinned to their spider, a number that was folded up so it couldn’t be seen, they were given the prize that matched that number. That way, no one could accuse us of playing favorites and giving one camper a better prize than another. The prize they took home was based on the luck of the draw. Speaking of which, on the bottom of one spider, with the number 13 pinned to it, was a tiny red hourglass stitched on the belly. The camper that picked that spider got an extra prize!

As you might guess, plans for camp always start months ahead of time. So, when I ran across a pattern by Elaine Walsh that was in the Fall 2011 issue of Simple Quilts & Sewing I knew our campers would love them. Of course, being the rebels that we are we didn’t follow the pattern exactly. Heaven forbid! We just used it as an inspiration and made a couple of changes so our spiders could stand on their own eight legs.

As always, the making of the spiders was a team effort. I did the majority of the cutting out while Victoria sewed the majority of the spiders together. After I realized she could make two spiders to my one it was a no brainer on my part to let her do them all. Yes, bless her heart, she stitched and stuffed 23 of the 25 spiders that we made.

The original pattern called for baby rickrack for the legs. While I had that item in stock, Victoria suggested pipe cleaners, better known as chenille stems these days. Since we decided to change out the legs we had to change out the fabric for the body because I SNT-2015-Spider Equiptdidn’t want to sew over the metal parts of the legs and then try to turn the spider inside out as instructed in the pattern using the rickrack for legs. We opted for black wool felt for the bodies. Rather than cutting out the body pattern given on the pattern sheet, I used a lid from a candle that I had on hand that was just about the same size. Given there was no seam allowance needed when using the wool felt, I figured the resulting spider would be about the same size. I used a white marking pencil to draw around the lid on a folded piece of wool felt which meant I could cut the top and the bottom of the spider at the same time. I cut the strip about 3-3/4” wide, and from one width (approx. 36”) I got five complete spider bodies.

I traced the eye pattern on a scrap piece of Transfer-Eze, cut on the drawn line, peeled off the paper backing, and stuck the sticky film to a scrap of white wool felt. Then I cut out the white of the eye. This became our eye pattern and was used to cut out eyes for all 25 spiders, times two. I just noticed that I don’t have the original eye that I used to cut out all the others, so one of our campers must have a spider with an eyeball that has Transfer-Eze on the back. That’s OK though, it won’t hurt anything.

Before sewing the spider together we placed a teeny weeny (3/16”) black button from Hillcreek Designs in the center, more or less, of a white eye. Then we stitched that unit, times two, to one of the black circles to make the top of the spider. The bottom circle was added and the two pieces were buttonhole stitched in order to keep them together. Before getting too far around though, the legs, which were cut to 8”, were added one at a time. This made it easier to stitch around one side than it did around the other. That’s because by the time you get to the other side of the body you have all four legs to deal with at one time. Yes, that’s a bit tricky so take your time if you decide to make these yourself. Also, if you need a smaller or larger spider just find a circle the size you need, i.e. saucer, drinking glass, spray starch can, etc. You can easily have a whole army of spiders in various sizes. You can have mommy spiders, daddy spiders, baby spiders…you get the picture.

Of course, it should go without saying that you have to leave a hole in order to stuff the spider to, in this case, make it pincushion worthy. We used Poly-Fil and tried to stuff it fairly tightly. This helps to hold the legs in place, but they can still slide from side to side, so if you let a child play with these do keep an eye on them as the legs might come out all together. Tightly stuffing your spider also helps to keep the pins from pushing through and out the bottom. Don’t get me wrong, they’ll still poke through if you push them hard enough so be careful when picking up your spider once he has pins in place. That’s when picking him up by the legs would be a good idea. By the way, in case you don’t already have Poly-Fil on hand, we do carry a small 2 ounce bag in the event you only want to make a few spiders and don’t want to buy a huge bag and have to find somewhere to store it.
SNT-2015 Splatted Spider
Once made, your spider will look like this. No, one leg isn’t longer than the others, it’s just an optical illusion. Rick said the first one he saw looked like a splatted spider, and after he said that I could see why he’d think so. We had other designs in mind for our spiders though. We wanted them to stand up, so we bent the legs in two places (refer back to first photo). You could bend them only once if you prefer. After all, it’s your spider and you can make his/her legs do whatever you want them to do. You could even add a little bow to one side of the eyes in order to differentiate your girl spiders from your boy spiders. We didn’t do that though because time was a bit of an issue. Yes, even though I found the pattern a while back, as in a couple of months ago at least, we didn’t make the spiders until a few days before camp began. I know, I know. I don’t set a very good example for my daughter where getting things done ahead of time is concerned. I do set a great example though of waiting ‘till the last minute and pushing, I mean persevering, to get things finished. Does that count for anything? Anything at all…? I mean, surely that life skill will come in handy one of these days when she’s handed a project that needs doing in a hurry. Won’t it?

Speaking of projects, Victoria will be helping in the decorating of the dance studio this year for fall. Instead of using these as pincushions, she will be taking a few of our spiders to the dance studio to use as decorations. She might even hang one or two from the ceiling all tangled up in that white fluff stuff that’s supposed to look like spider webs. We ended up with four extra spiders that she can use. There should have been five extras, but we had to give Miss Martha one. Yes, we HAD to give Miss Martha one because she whined about wanting one. I know…if you know Miss Martha you’re not surprised one little bit to hear that.

All in all I think our campers liked their little spiders. Hopefully, every time they use it they’ll think of all the fun they had at camp and endeavour to join us again at a future camp. I’ve said it before but have to say it again. I have an awesome group of ladies who come together for camp. They’re not always the same ones, although many don’t miss a camp if they can help it, but they’re all awesome. I cannot brag on them enough! Not only are they patient with me when I’m slow in getting information out to them on camp, but they’re always helpful and willing to teach a newer quilter in my absence. They get so much accomplished during our three day camp that I’m getting more and more tempted to close the shop and join them. Who knows, maybe one day I will!

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